Josh Schwartz: "The O.C." Creator

As a student at the University of Southern California (USC), this New Englander ran across numerous students from the privileged community of Newport Beach in the Orange County area of SoCal. And after hooking up with producer/ director McG and Stephanie Savage of production company, Wonderland, the seeds were planted for what would become the hit series, "The O.C."

Where did you get the original idea for "The O.C."?

JS:
Well, I'm from Providence, Rhode Island in New England and I went to USC [University of Southern California], which is where a lot of kids from Newport Beach are bred to attend and these kids were like no kids I had ever seen before. They were all blond and beautiful and athletic, and they were from this really wealthy community where they live in these beautiful houses and it all seemed perfect. And then when you got to know ‘em a little better, you got to see that things weren't necessarily perfect as they looked. I thought it was really a fascinating place.

And then I was going around taking meetings about writing for a show and I met with [producer] McG and his partner Stephanie Savage's company, Wonderland. And they said they were looking to do a show and Newport Beach came up. I said that I knew that world from college and then I went off and came back with some characters in our story. They were interested and we went and sold it to Warner Bros. and FOX.

Was it a difficult sell?

JS:
I think the timing was right really. I think FOX was looking to get back to a younger audience, and on the surface we had young, attractive, wealthy people living in Southern California, and it felt right to them. They used to do "Beverly Hills 90210," and even though I think we're a different show than that and would go a little bit deeper than that with more humor, we were able to convince ‘em that we were gonna have that same kind of appeal.

It's turned into quite a phenomenon over the past year. When did you realize that it was definitely reaching that kind of massive acceptance?

JS:
It's been amazing, because the first week we aired, everyone was like, ‘Oh, ho hum,' and from there it just started to build and build, and about five episodes into that first season, FOX threw this big viewing party for the cast at a bar down in Hermosa Beach, which is near where we shoot in Manhattan Beach, and there was like a thousand screaming young people out front. That's when I thought, ‘I think this is catching on.'

The show has drawn a lot of comparisons from the media. Does that bother you and do you have a favorite one?

JS:
The best one I heard was, ‘it's The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air-meets-Eight Mile.' I thought that was good [laughs]. We've obviously heard the ‘90210' comparisons, which I understand. I totally get it, but I do think our show is a lot different. I think it's really it's own thing. It does big dramatic storylines, but it also has a lot of comedy and light humor. And at it's heart, it's really a family show.

This series deals with a lot of issues but manages to do it without being overly preachy. Was that a conscious attempt from the beginning?

JS:
Yeah, totally, absolutely. I don't buy it when shows do that kind of thing. I think you really create a dynamic with young people when they don't feel like you're preaching to them, but where you're just sort of presenting things as they are. And you create that contact where they listen to you.

But we also wanted to be responsible and we know that we have to show consequences for actions. And you can't, you know, just let kids do drugs wildly without showing any repercussions at all. Because that's just not real.

Is Josh Schwartz found in any of the characters that you ultimately created?

JS:
The Seth and Sandy story is a lot like the relationship between me and my dad. And I guess Seth is the character that I most closely identify with, in terms of his point of view of the world and his outsider status. But there's parts about all the characters I definitely relate to, absolutely. Even Julie Cooper [laughs].

Okay, give us the scoop. What's gonna happen in Season 2?

JS:
At the end of last season, everyone on the show was miserable. And when we come back this season all the characters are still miserable. So if you're looking for a good time, not gonna happen [laughs].

When we left last season, Ryan had left for Chino to have what may or may not be his baby and to protect his ex-girlfriend from her abusive ex-boyfriend who also may or may not be the father of the child. Seth, completely emotionally distraught over the thought of losing Ryan and having to face Newport Beach life again on his own, does a thing that he kind of always wanted to do before Ryan got there and takes off in a sailboat and runs away.

Marissa is the princess in the tower forced to live in Caleb's mansion against her will, blackmailed by this tyrant and beginning a spiral of dysfunction and alcohol abuse that will carry over through the summer and take us into Season 2.

So we come back this season from the summer. Our five months off the air have been the three months of summer for the characters of the show. It's been a long summer for all these characters, torn apart from each other and now we get to watch and see if and how they'll all come back together. That's all I'm gonna say right now.


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